Saint Anthony Mary Claret



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519. The major came to my house every day and informed me about the petitioners, and the parish priest973 made public inquiries to ascertain whether the marriages in question would be licit. One day a European came to see me. A native of Cadiz, he had been living out of wedlock with a woman of mixed blood who had borne him nine children. I didn't speak with him personally, but he told my secretary that he had to see me because he wanted by all means to marry the woman and do right by the children she had borne him. The secretary said he would talk to me about the case and that the man should come back later because the major wasn't present and we ourselves knew nothing of the man's background. And that was the long and the short of it.

520. That very night the major brought charges against the parish priest, to the effect that he had been performing illicit marriages between racial classes--referring to the case of the man from Cadiz whom I mentioned. The parish priest in turn reported this to me, very much to my surprise. I summoned the major and told him that in acting as he did he was taking steps not against the parish priest, but against me, and that his charges were both untrue and unfounded. I made it clear to him that on my part I had been extremely careful not to announce the banns of anyone's marriage without first consulting him, to avoid any unpleasant surprises; whereas he had now started spreading this slanderous misstatement. In the notice he had served on the parish priest, he had stated that he was going to prefer charges against him to the Governor General of Cuba. In an effort to nip this rumor in the bud, I asked him whether he had done so or not. He lied to me again by telling me that he had not yet done so.974 Lo and behold, the Governor General, acting on nothing more than the allegation of the major at El Cobre and the bad advice of the secretary of government, instigated a series of wild investigations that only resulted in arguments and trouble.975

521. Notwithstanding all these difficulties, with God's help in every way imaginable a great deal of good was accomplished. While I was still working in El Cobre, General Lemery, the major general in charge of the central district of Cuba, wrote me from his residence in Puerto Principe976 urging me to come there at once, to dampen the mounting fires of revolution. At the same time I received another letter from the captain general of Havana, Don Jose de la Concha,977 advising me not to go there because any petition for clemency on my part would prevent him from dealing out justice and making a public example of the rebels. I informed him of the urgings of the major general of the central district, after which he told me to proceed as planned.

522. I went to Puerto Principe toward the end of July of that year.978 As the whole city was deeply involved in the revolution of Narciso Lopez979 or with the anti-European insurgents of the north, a great many precautionary measures surrounded my arrival. At the start of the mission many people came to see whether or not I was going to talk about the political upheavals taking place all over the island of Cuba, and especially those at Puerto Principe. When they observed that I didn't breathe a word about politics either from the pulpit or in the confessional, publicly or privately, they were greatly impressed and I won their confidence.

523. Just at this time, the troops had captured four revolutionaries who were citizens of the town. They were carrying firearms at the time of their capture, and so they had been sentenced to death. The guilty men and their relatives had such confidence in me that they asked me to come to the prison to hear their confessions, which I did.980 Their confidence in me grew to the extent that they asked me to act as their intermediary with the general. I was to tell him that all those who were implicated in carrying firearms would, if they were pardoned, lay down their arms and return home secretly, without saying a -word about the event or revealing the names of those involved. I obtained the general's agreement to these terms, with the result that the whole band was dissolved, all their guns, ammunition, and money were dispersed, and everything returned to peace. Two years later some North Americans made another attempt, but it failed to achieve the same response as before. Later another effort was made, but it failed utterly.

524. Thus there were three attempts to overthrow Cuba during my stay there: the first was very powerful but disappeared completely with the Lord's help; the second was not so strong;981 the third was totally ineffective.982 Because of this, the enemies of Spain could hardly stand the sight of me. They said that the Archbishop of Santiago did them more harm than the whole army. They were sure that as long as I remained on the island their plans would fail, and so they began plotting to kill me.983

Chapter III

Missions in Puerto Principe, Manzanillo,

San Fructuoso, and Bayamo

525. The first thing I did on arriving in Puerto Principe was to lead the local clergy in the Spiritual Exercises. So as not to leave the parishes unattended, I gave the Exercises in two different shifts. I rented a house big enough for all of us to live in. Then I organized one group of 20 and another of 19. We ate together and lived under the same roof day and night. Our schedule included readings, meditations, recitation of the Divine Office, and the talks I gave. Everyone made a general confession, drew up a plan of life, and everything was put in order.984

526. After focusing on the clergy, I turned my attention to the laity. Because the city was more than a league long, I had three missions held simultaneously for the convenience of the people. I assigned Fathers Lorenzo San Marti and Anthony Barjau to preach the mission at the church of Our Lady of Charity, at one end of town, and Father Manuel Vilaró to preach the mission at St. Anne's, at the other end of town. I myself preached the mission at Our Lady of Mercy, the largest church in town, located in the center. The mission lasted two months, August and September, and with God's help it did incalculable good. I also visited the six parishes and other churches of the town.985

527. From Puerto Principe I pushed on to Nuevitas,986 where we also gave a mission, and from there we went on to Baga, San Miguel, and San Jeronimo, returning to Puerto Principe to celebrate Christmas. We chanted Matins and celebrated a Solemn High Midnight Mass in the Church of Our Lady of Solitude. At this time Father Barjau fell ill with yellow fever. His condition became quite serious, but he recovered perfectly, thank God.987 After this we continued giving missions, administering Confirmation, visiting parishes, and working our way, parish by parish, until we reached Santiago for Holy Week. We performed all the ceremonies of Holy Week with great solemnity because well in advance of this we had instructed all the priests who were to take part in the Mass of Chrism, and other services, in the proper observance of the rubrics.988

528. Toward the end of April I left Santiago and headed for Manzanillo, together with two of my priests, while the rest of my missionary band went off to different locations. At Manzanillo I began preaching for the month of May;989 I preached several times daily. Without realizing it, I let slip some remarks about great earthquakes that would be coming soon.990

From Manzanillo we pushed on to the parish of San Fructuoso, and wherever we went we followed the same routine: hearing confessions, preaching, confirming, and performing marriages. From here we went to Bayamo, where I started the mission and did as elsewhere. I gave the Spiritual Exercises to the clergy, preached every day, and kept on confirming people until August 20, 1852. That day, at ten in the morning, as I was standing in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament of Our Lady of Sorrows, I felt the first of a series of earthquakes that were to be repeated for several days.991



Chapter IV

The Earthquakes in Santiago

529. The havoc wrought by the Cuban earthquakes was truly dreadful.992 The people were terrified, and my vicar general993 sent for me to come to Santiago994 as I was needed there. I left the mission at Bayamo and went to Santiago, where I was appalled at the sight of the ruins; one could hardly move through the streets, for all the wreckage and debris. The cathedral was a total disaster. To give some idea of the power of the tremors that hit that great church, I will describe just one detail. At the ends of the cathedral's facade there were two matching towers, one is a bell tower and the other is a clock tower, each of which had four corners topped by mace-like finials. One of these finials was dislodged and thrown through one of the bell tower windows. Imagine the arc that finial had to describe to break through one of those windows. The episcopal palace was a wreck, and so were all the other churches, more or less. Public squares were converted into chapels where Mass was said, the sacraments distributed, and sermons preached. Nearly all the houses in town were in a state of greater or lesser disrepair.

530. No one who hasn't experienced a major earthquake can have the slightest idea of what it's like. It's not just the moving or heaving of the earth and the sight of utensils and furniture sliding from one end of the room to the other. If that were all there was to it, then anyone who has sailed on rough seas has seen the like happen on a ship. But there is a great deal more to an earthquake than that.

531. Horses and other four-footed animals are the first to sense the quake; it's awful to see them freeze in their tracks, their legs braced like table-legs, so that all the beating and goading in the world couldn't budge them. Then all the birds --chickens, turkeys, doves, parrots, parakeets, etc.—begin cackling, shrieking, crying, thrashing about, and flailing their wings. Next there is a deep, subterranean rumbling, and everything begins to sway, and you can hear the creaking of timbers, doors, and walls and the sound of pieces falling from buildings. This is accompanied by a change in the electrical field that throws compass needles completely off.

532. Moreover, everyone feels--and sees the same in everyone else--as if he were at the scene of an explosion. The air is filled with terrifying cries of Mercy! and, driven by their instinct for self-preservation, people start running for the nearest square, patio, or street, for nobody feels safe in his own home. Then, after running a while, they stop and suddenly grow silent. They look at each other foolishly and tears come to their eyes. What is happening is beyond explanation. In the midst of all these terrors, one touch of incongruous humor stands out: all the sick in private homes and in civilian and military hospitals--all of them wrapped in their blankets --arose and left their sickbeds and said that they were quite well and that nothing could induce them to return to their beds.

533. So much was destroyed; yet we hardly had time to lament our personal losses. A great number of people were praising the wonders of God's mercy for preserving them from all bodily harm when their houses were utterly destroyed. The ruins were extensive and repairs were costly. Repairs on the cathedral cost me 24,000 duros, on the seminary 7,000 duros,995 and on the episcopal palace, 5,000 duros.996

Chapter V

The Cholera Epidemic in the Diocese of Cuba

534. The quakes lasted from August 20 to the end of December, with a few brief interruptions--although there were days on which there were as many as five tremors. We offered prayers of supplication, and all the canons and other priests went in procession to the esplanade along the seashore where an outdoor chapel, made of posts covered by a large awning, had been set up. In the morning everyone gathered here, the authorities as well as the townspeople, to sing the litany and a votive Mass of supplication.997

535. Apart from the litanies, we celebrated votive masses and in the evening, after the rosary and petitions. I preached a mission, exhorting all to penance, telling them that God had treated some of them as a mother treats a sleepy-headed child of a morning. She shakes his cot to awaken him and make him get up. If this fails, she has to nudge him bodily. This, I told them, was what God was doing with his children who were oversleeping in their sins. He had shaken their cots, beds, and houses. If they still weren't awake, He would strike their bodies with a plague of cholera, for God our Lord had given me to understand that this is what He would do. Some of my listeners resented this and grumbled about me, but in scarcely a month's time a frightful epidemic of cholera broke out. There were streets in which everyone died within two days.998

536. Many who had not gone to confession during the mission did so because of the earthquakes and the plague. How true it is that some sinners are like walnut trees; the only way they will yield their fruit is by being beaten with sticks.999 Withal I could only bless the Lord and thank Him continuously for visiting this plague upon us in due season; for I saw quite clearly that this was an act of his adorable mercy. I know that many who confessed on their deathbed had not gone to confession during the mission and that others who had confessed and been converted at the mission had already fallen back into their former sins. God used that plague to take them to Himself, and this very day they are with Him in heaven. If it had not been for this plague, they would have fallen back again into their sins and, dying in them, would have been condemned. Blessed and praised be God, our good Father, the God of kindness and of all consolation!1000

537. During the cholera epidemic, all the clergy acquitted themselves admirably, day and night. I and all the priests were among the sick constantly, caring for their spiritual and corporal needs. Only one priest, the pastor of El Cobre, died and he was a victim of charity. He began to feel some slight symptoms of the disease, but he took his medicine and there was some hope of his being cured. He was in bed recuperating when word came that one of the victims needed to see a priest. At this, the pastor said, I know that if I go I'll die because it will only worsen my condition; but because there is no other priest available, I'll go. I'd rather die than fail this sick man who is calling for me. He went and on his return took to his bed and died.1001

Chapter VI

Journey To Baracoa, Mayarí, and Santiago.

Outcome of My First Pastoral Visit

538. During the first two years, despite the earthquakes and the cholera epidemic, we managed to visit all the parishes in the archdiocese. In every one of them a mission was led either by me or my companions, and in rural parishes with a very large territory, several missions were given. Every two or three leagues we would hold a mission in one of the many large tobacco sheds. We would set up an altar, a pulpit, and a confessional with the help of some chairs and gratings we brought along for that purpose.

539. Throughout those first two years it rained a great deal. On one occasion it rained for nine months without skipping a day; and there were days when it rained through the night as well. This made traveling difficult, but I and my companions kept on going and the people kept on coming. We were all happy and in good spirits, although we sometimes lacked even the necessities of life.

540. I remember that in my second year on the island I wanted to go overland to Baracoa because the sea wasn't fit, and I took off with my companions.1002 We took along a cook, both because the places we were going to were few and far between and because the inhabitants of the few outlying houses had abandoned them in their flight from the cholera epidemic. Our good cook fell behind because his pack-mule couldn't walk; so the rest of us went on ahead, arriving very late that night at a house where we could find nothing to eat but a small and really tough piece of hardtack, which we broke into four pieces, one for each priest.1003 Next morning we had to start out, fasting, on the worst road I've ever traveled in my whole life.

541. We had to cross the river Jojo 35 times because it zigzags between two high mountain ridges, and the traveler has no course open to him other than to cross it. After we made it past the river, we had to climb a stretch of mountains called the Cuchillas de Baracoa. The name fits them perfectly because they really are like a row of knives. A road runs along the crest of the mountains, and there are stretches of it as tortuous as a chambered nautilus. These are divided, so that anyone descending can avoid ascending traffic. Otherwise, if two horses confronted each other, one would have to back up because the road is too narrow to turn around in. The mountains run along the spine of the island for about four leagues, and they are so high that you can see the ocean on both sides. We had to climb and cross these mountains fasting, and the road is so steep that on the way down I slipped and fell twice, although I wasn't badly hurt, thank God.1004

542. Around noon we arrived at a farmhouse where we were able to get something to eat, and that evening we reached the city of Baracoa, where the explorer Columbus first set foot on Cuban soil. They still have the cross he planted on landing.1005 Well, now, it had been 60 years since a bishop had visited this city, which meant that the sacrament of Confirmation had not been administered there in all those years.1006 When I arrived, two of my mission band had already been there and given a mission; nevertheless, I preached there every day during my stay. I confirmed and visited everyone and then passed on first to the parish of Guantanamo and then to Mayari. Some of my mission band had given a mission in both of these parishes, and all that I did at Baracoa I did here, too.

543. From Mayari I traveled to Santiago, the capital, a distance of 40 leagues. We set out on the Monday of Holy Week. Since the route we were to travel was very isolated, we had to take along some provisions, which consisted of an earthenware pot containing a stew made of codfish, garbanzos, and potatoes. After we had been walking for a long stretch of road, my companions said that we needed to eat; so we stopped, took out the pot, lit a fire, and huddled behind the trunk of a large mahogany tree to shield ourselves from the wind. We all took turns gathering wood and the fire got so hot that the pot broke.1007 We got a piece of palm-bark (it peels off the palm tree like a large piece of cowhide) and poured what we could salvage of the stew into it. We didn't have any spoons or forks; so we hunted up a gourd and ate our mess of pottage with it. We were thirsty and got another piece of palm-bark, tied both ends of it together like a bucket, filled it with water, and enjoyed a refreshing drink. We were all so happy and content that it was a wonder to behold. The following day we arrived in Santiago to celebrate Holy Week services, as I did every year.

544. As I said, we had the earthquakes and cholera epidemic during the first two years; and yet, between me and my companions, we managed to give missions in every parish in the archdiocese. I made my pastoral visit to each of them and administered the sacrament of Confirmation, remaining as long as it took to confirm everyone.1008 Everywhere we went we distributed books, holy cards, medals, and rosaries, with the result that everyone was as pleased with us as we were with them.

545. During that first round of visits and missions we took the trouble to keep a count of all the articles we distributed Journey to Baracoa, First visitation and found that we had given away 98,217 books, either gratis or in exchange for the bad books that people brought in and we destroyed--and there were very many of these bad books. We also gave away 89,500 holy cards, 20,663 rosaries, and 8,931 religious medals.1009 After the first visit we no longer kept track of these things because we ordered such large quantities from Spain, France, and elsewhere that we distributed them throughout the diocese and beyond. May it all redound to God's greater glory and the good of the souls redeemed by Jesus Christ.

546. From the opening to the closing days of my tenure in office, I wrote a number of circular letters; but I had no desire to write a properly pastoral letter until I had finished my first pastoral visitation of the whole archdiocese, so that my words would apply to the real situation and not be just so much idle talk.

547. My first pastoral letter, written and signed on September 20, 1852, was addressed to the clergy. This letter was reprinted1010 and expanded to include declarations on the following: (1) clerical dress, (2) duties of vicars forane, (3) duties of pastors and other priests, (4) arrangements for pastors and assistants, (5) style of life, (6) chaplains, (7) marriage regulations, (8) marriage dispensations.

548. To these points I added seven appendices on: (l) church furnishings and parochial books, (2) cemeteries, (3) stipends, (4) the distribution of allowances for repairs, (5) conferences, (6) the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, (7) the method of removing scandals.1011

549. My second pastoral letter of March 25, 1853 was addressed to the laity, reminding them of what we had taught them in the missions and pastoral visits we had just completed.1012 The third pastoral was in protest against a shipment of evil books brought in by boat.1013 The fourth was an invitation to prayer and other pious works in order to obtain the declaration of the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception.1014 The fifth was written on the occasion of the declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. This was published in Cuba, Barcelona, and Paris.1015 May it all be for the greater glory of God and Mary Most Holy, and for the good of souls, as this has always been my intention.

CHAPTER VII

Various Arrangements I Made for the Good of the Diocese

550. Despite the fact that I had visited and given missions in all the parishes of the diocese during those first two years, I kept on doing so even afterwards. The Council of Trent demands that the pastoral visitation be made every one or two years; during my six years and two months in office, I visited every parish in the diocese four times.1016

551. During my time the salaries of the cathedral and parochial clergy were adjusted and raised; my own salary was cut. Previously the Archbishop of Cuba had received a salary of 30,000 duros, plus parochial stole fees of 6,000 duros; in my time I had it reduced to 18,000 duros, minus all stole fees.1017

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